How to Get Rid of Clutter!
Do you own more things than you know what to do with? Does it take you hours to find anything? Is your closet filled with clothes you haven't worn in years? Barbara Tako, author of Clutter Clearing Choices, has advice on how to get rid of clutter!
CommitmentNow.com: Clutter Clearing Choices is an extremely informative book on clutter clearing, home organizing and simple living. What events lead you to writing this book?
Barbara Tako: I was not a naturally organized clutter-free person. Do you remember the television series called “The Odd Couple?” There were two roommates where one named Felix was the model of tidiness and neatness and the other named Oscar was kind of a slob? Well, I began life as an Oscar. I decided to learn some different behaviors because I learned that the benefits of less clutter and better organization are to free up time for life priorities, whatever those priorities are.
It began with my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law was nominated for Suburban Homemaker of the Year in her city back in the 1960’s! At first, I was scared at the thought of even trying to live up to that standard! How could I? But eventually, I realized that because she ran a tighter ship than I did, she had time for her priorities—her faith, her family, her friends, and her interests. That caught my attention.
I love and respect my mother-in-law and I learned the purpose of clutter clearing and home organizing isn’t to have a magazine cover perfect home. The purpose is to free up time for other things—and enjoy a more relaxing, restoring home that energizes us instead of drains us.
CommitmentNow.com: Clutter Clearing Choices is divided into sections by season. Why did you organize the book like this?
Barbara: It is organized by season because we struggle with different kinds of clutter at different times of the year. Check out these examples: In the fall, we change our wardrobes and the physical things in our lives from summer to fall items and deal with time management issues and the upcoming holidays. In the winter, we think about paper clutter as we prepare our taxes, and in the spring, we weed out the physical clutter as part of our spring cleaning…
Clutter is a year-round challenge. Our lives change constantly, so the stuff in our lives frequently needs to change to fit us. I arranged my free monthly clutter clearing tips newsletter (sign up at www.clutterclearingchoices.com) this way too – small simple ideas by month to help people stay more organized and clutter-free.
CommitmentNow.com: What is clutter and why is it so important to get ride of it?
Barbara: Clutter is anything that weighs us down and takes time and energy away from our life priorities. Clutter can be physical, mental, and even emotional. It can be “stuff” or it can be paper or even electronic paper (Internet, e-mail…). It can be ideas rolling around in our head or feelings that are evoked when we look at certain things that we own.
Clutter costs us time, money, and energy. According to the American Demographics Society, Americans waste 9 million hours per day looking for lost or misplaced items. We also waste money by buying replacements or duplicates of things we already have but can’t find. It is important to clear clutter because it drains our energy when we have to worry about, store, and maintain all this stuff.
CommitmentNow.com: Why do people accumulate so much clutter?
Barbara: We accumulate so much stuff for a variety of reasons. Here are some examples: We keep gifts out of courtesy to the giver. We inherit items. We shop when we feel dissatisfied or bored. We acquire stuff every time we have a new interest, hobby, or activity in our life.
In fact, it is as simple as saying that we have stuff because we are alive. Life changes create clutter (job or job loss, marriage or divorce, birth or death, hobbies or interests…) The problems come in when we let clutter clog our lives. Just as our lives change and flow, the things in our lives need to flow through our homes and not get stuck there.
CommitmentNow.com: What are some of the different types of clutter people accumulate?
Barbara: Sometimes I think there are as many kinds of clutter as there are people. For example, people accumulate clothing, things, paperwork, newspapers, magazines, hobby or craft items, and collections. I think it can be helpful to look at the reasons behind the things that people accumulate.
For instance, with clothing, people may cling to it because “they paid good money for it” even if it turned out to be a purchasing error, hang onto several sizes as their weight fluctuates, tell themselves that something trendy will come back in style again, or say to themselves that that they will finally get around to repairing, cleaning or wearing whatever “it” is again.
CommitmentNow.com: What are the first steps a person should take when deciding to rid her life of clutter?
Barbara: Spend as little 5, 10, or 15 minutes per day working on clutter rather than fretting about it. It takes less time and energy to work on it than it does to repeatedly worry about it, think about it, or stare at it. Honest!
Toss the guilt: I “paid good money for it” or “it was a gift” or “I might need it some day”…Feel guilty only one more time as you recycle/donate/sell/toss “it.”
Quit looking at it and start clearing it! Live greener as you recycle and donate!
Create wiggle room in your life, or growth potential! Get unstuck!
Remember the 80-20 rule applies to stuff and clothing too! We use 20% of our stuff 80% of the time, and the other 80% of our stuff is often just crowding our closets, drawers, spaces, and our lives. Make room for your life to grow!
Gradually form new habits, like standing by the recycle bin to sort your mail. Nobody likes the “h” word, but that is what this is really about—life style choices and habits. It doesn’t matter how many times you quit. Just keep trying. You will reduce your clutter, and it will free up time and energy for your priorities and make your home more relaxing, restoring, and energizing for you. You deserve this.
CommitmentNow.com: What are some of the most extreme examples of clutter you have run across?
Barbara: Thanks to television shows like Hoarders, I think many of us have seen extreme examples of clutter—situations where it has become a health or safety concern. I think clutter is a continuim where we all appear somewhere. It isn’t any better to be obsessively or compulsively neat than it is to be obsessively or compulsively messy.
CommitmentNow.com: What advice do you have for someone who is overwhelmed by all the clutter around her and has tried, unsuccessfully, to clear it?
Barbara: Be gentle with yourself. You will succeed when you are ready. Remember, there is no single best way to get rid of clutter. It depends on the person, where you are in life, and what your personal preferences and style are.
In my book, I try to offer a variety of clutter solutions to each clutter concern to pick and choose from. Find techniques that fit your personal style and you will be successful and stick with them!
Consider starting small with something very visible. Try a fifteen minutes session in a small area that has been bugging you. Perhaps the entryway or the kitchen counter? You will then be pleased with your success and motivated to continue your efforts in other areas of your home.
Two standard ways to get rid of clutter are: the box method, and the piece method. I also like my “as-you-go” method where you get in the habit of culling out items as you move through your home in your normal routines. Again, there is no one right way to do it, so don’t let procrastination or perfectionism win! We can each do this for our families and ourselves!
Motivational clutter clearing speaker and published author Barbara Tako is a recent breast cancer survivor who urges everyone to be current with their mammograms (she has a good prognosis because the cancer was caught early on a routine mammogram). Barbara now strives to "walk her simple living and clutter clearing talk" while going through breast cancer treatment and chooses to donate a portion of author proceeds to breast cancer awareness and research. Her seasonally organized book “Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life” (O Books, Jan., 2010) offers a variety of tips for readers to pick and choose from, and it is available wherever books are sold. Sign up for her free monthly clutter clearing tips newsletter at www.clutterclearingchoices.com.